Gang-gang. Canberra's 2015 remembered. Year of the half-full Freakshake.

Gang-gang. Canberra's 2015 remembered. Year of the half-full Freakshake.

Every year at this time the city quakes as its awaits this column's feared UnCanberran​ of the Year award for the year that has just passed.

Our 2014 UnCanberrans of the Year were the Liberals of the ACT Legislative Assembly. They earned it for their small-town yokel philistinism in making an imbroglio out of a Nazi striptease burlesque at the National Multicultural Festival. Hit with our feared award the ACT Liberals at once slumped in the polls and have not bounced back since.

Selfish Powerful Owl, refusing to share.

Selfish Powerful Owl, refusing to share. Credit:Geoffrey Dabb.

It is a humbling responsibility for a columnist to wield such power. But, responsibly, the 2015 target of our influential, pointing, accusing finger is revealed below.

First though to this column's 2015 Canberran of the Year.

Last year in Canberra was yet another of those years when those of us who count our blessings (who never imagine the Freakshake jar half empty but always see it joyously half full) felt that to be tired of Canberra was to be tired of life.


This column seeks to celebrate Canberra's metrosexiness (while also noticing its warts) and with every year this celebration becomes more effortless as the city gets bigger, more diverse, more wonderfully Melbourney.

As a creature half bogan/half aesthete your columnist thinks it a thrilling thing to be able to go to watch the CBR Brave play brutish ice hockey one evening and then go to see maestro Nicholas Milton and the Canberra Symphony play a Sibelius symphony the next. These days, now that Canberra is growing up and becoming more broad-shouldered, life here abounds with these sorts of inner-bogan-indulging one day/inner-aesthete-indulging the next opportunities.

So 2015's Canberra offered a zillion candidates as Canberran of the Year.

We came very close to giving the gong to Nick Kyrgios, and not only because of the young Canberran's swaggering zest so symbolic of confident young Canberra's metro-swagger. No, Canberra is also grateful for his newsworthy sound advice, during 2015's Wimbledon, that being sexually active improves one's tennis. I think I speak for every arthritic member of ACT Tennis Seniors when I say that following his advice has transformed our tennis and our lives. Thank you Nick, athlete and sex therapist.

But our 2015 Canberran of the Year award goes to a recipient who will probably (although some have credited it with intellectual powers and have even claimed it has dictated poetry to them) never know it has won. For our choice is the Powl, the celebrity Powerful Owl of Turner.

Majestic without being vain, a celebrity without ever getting down into pop culture's mindless social media and talk show gutters, enigmatic on the subject of light rail when every other Canberran has been gibbering about it, he/she was an exemplary Canberran in 2015.

During 2015, haunting the neighbourhood of a Turner bowling club, the Powl became a famous and photogenic object of pilgrimage for hundreds of Canberrans. Photos and artworks of it (the best of them by Geoffrey Dabb) decorated this world-famous column.

The Powl is still there at Turner. On Christmas Day a member of the Canberra Ornithologists Group watched it high up in a Turner tree, characteristically tearing apart its latest kill. Spectacular and beautiful it is a symbol, here in the suburbs, of the way native bushiness defines the character of our Bush Capital.

Choosing the UnCanberran of the Year was far more fraught, there being an abundance of candidates.

Our conservative federal 'Labor' MPs Andrew Leigh and my own deeply disappointing member Gai Brodtmann were strong contenders, for their shameful failure to ever speak up about their party's sickening asylum seeker policies.

On this issue, 2015 was for lots of decent Canberra electors (who still dream, naively, of some decency from the ALP) yet another year of Fremantle envy. In 2015 the Labor member for Fremantle Melissa Parke spoke out often against her party's disgusting enthusiasm for "processing" poor wretches offshore on Manus Island and Nauru.

Other strong contenders for this column's dreaded annual gong include Canberra's FWWs (First World Whingers). In 2015 their nit-picking letters of inconsequentia bespoiled this paper's Letters pages, like abandoned supermarket trolleys cluttering up and spoiling what would otherwise be an effervescently biodiverse wetland.

But our choice of unCanberrans of the Year of 2015 goes to Can The Tram, gibbering opponents of light rail. The group's drivers (and other bean-counting Canberrans who in hitherto unfulfilled retirement have made a hobby out of opposing light rail) had a very busy 2015.

You get some sense of Can The Tram's ugliness from its Abbottesque, anti-intellectual three-word slogan of a name. Ditch the Witch. Axe the Tax. Stop the Boats. Can The Tram.

It is not so much that your columnist cares a great deal about light rail (although in 2015 I made joyous use of it in idyllic Bergen in progressive Norway) as that opponents of light rail are so often unCanberranly opposed to anything that is new and that will cost any shekels. But Canberra is young and swaggering and deserves money spent on it with generous abandon.

Opposition to light rail (and that virulent condition's co-symptom, an anal-retentive horror at spending money) issues from the same sorts of folk who opposed the Arboretum ('So new! So useless! So costly! We'll all be bankrupted in our beds!'), who once fought the allegedly nation-bankrupting creation of a new federal capital city and who resisted new ideas about the sphericity of our planet ('It's flat!').

When, inevitably, light rail goes ahead and succeeds our already half-full Freakshake jars will seem to overflow with joy at the defeat of Can The Tram kinds of Canberrans.